Immaculée while hiding for 91 days with seven other women cramped in a bathroom of a local pastor’s home during the horrible 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
Her story is both “timeless” and incredibly timely. Her parents were pillars in the community – loving and serving everyone they could regardless of tribal heritage.
Immaculée was raised with her three brothers with no feelings of bigotry; they were true Christians. There was a tremendous bond of love between all the family members, and that love extended beyond the home into the lives of many of the community members.
The parents were educators and helped many others besides their own children get good educations. They had many friends both in the Hutu and Tutsi tribes. Tribal differences didn’t matter to them.
When the Hutus began their attack on the Tutsis, large numbers came to Immaculée’s father wanting to know what to do. They respected him for his wisdom and knew that he had many Hutu friends in the government.
Because of the extensive propaganda build up, the hate feelings and bigotry were so strong that these friendships dissolved. When Immaculée’s father saw this, he sent her to a Pastor friend who had had a Tutsi wife, who had died – feeling that he would hide and protect Immaculée, which the Pastor did under great threat to his own life.
At the end of the genocide, all of Immaculée’s family had been killed except for a brother, who was out of the country going to college. This was heart rending to Immaculée because of the closeness of the family.
Toward the end of her 91 days of hiding at the Pastor’s home in a small bathroom with seven other ladies, she recounts the following amazing experience:
I heard the killers call my name.
A jolt of terror shot through me, and then the devil whispered in my ear again: Now they know who you are... now they know where you are...
My head snapped back, and I was thrown completely off guard. Why did they call out my name – how did they know I was here? Were they coming to the bathroom?
I tried to call on God, but all I could hear was the negative voice blaring in my mind... along with the vicious, sadistic chants of the killers echoing through the house. Clothes soaked in sweat, I fumbled with my faith.
There were hundreds of them this time. They were yelling at the pastor, accusing and threatening him. “Where is she?” they taunted. “We know she’s here somewhere, find her... find Immaculée.”
They were in the pastor’s bedroom, right on the other side of the wall. Less than an inch of plaster and wood separated us. Their footsteps shook the house, and I could hear their machetes and spears scraping along the walls.
In the chaos, I recognized the voice of a family friend. “I have killed 399 cockroaches,” he boasted, “Immaculée will make 400. It’s a good number to kill.”
As I cowered in the corner, the devil was laughing at me: They know your name... they know you’re here. Where is your God now?
The killers were pressuring the pastor: “Where are the Tutsis? You know what we’ll do if we find them. Where is she, Pastor? Where is Immaculée? This is the last place she was seen. Where are you hiding her?”
My spirit tumbled back into the arms of fear and doubt, and I was even more frightened than I’d been the first time the killers came. Their voices clawed at my flesh, and I felt like I was lying on a bed of burning coals.
A sweeping wave of pain engulfed my body, and a thousand invisible needles stabbed my flesh. Yet I tried again to pray: Dear God, forgive me for my lapse of faith... I trust in You, God... I know that You will save us. You are stronger than the evil in this house...
Oh, God, please! I screamed silently. Why do You want me to go through this? Why? What else can I do to show You my love? I want to believe that You will save us, God. How can I have more faith? I’m praying so hard, God, so hard... but they’re so close, and I’m so tired! Oh, God... I’m so tired.
I felt faint – consciousness slipped away from me until the killers’ thundering voices were only a soft, distant rumble. Then I was sleeping... and dreaming a sweet dream of Jesus.
I floated like a feather above the other women. I saw them trembling below me on the floor, holding their Bibles on their heads, begging God for mercy. I looked up and saw Jesus hovering above me in a pool of golden light, and his arms were reaching toward me.
I smiled, and the constant aches and pains that had become part of my body after weeks of crouching disappeared. There was no hunger, no thirst, and no fear – I was so peaceful... so happy.
Then Jesus spoke: “Mountains are moved with faith, Immaculée, but if faith were easy, all the mountains would be gone. Trust in me, and know that I will never leave you. Trust in me, and have no more fear.
Trust in me, and I will save you. I shall put my cross upon the door, and they will not reach you. Trust in me, and you shall live.”
Suddenly I was back on the floor again with the others. Their eyes were still closed, but mine were wide open, staring at a giant cross of brilliant white light stretching from wall to wall in front of the bathroom door.
As I looked, radiant energy brushed my face, warming my skin like the sun. I knew instinctively that a kind of Divine force was emanating from the cross, which would repel the killers.
I knew that we were protected and safe, so I jumped to my feet, feeling like I had the strength of a lioness. I thanked God for touching me with His love once again, and then I looked down at the others.
For the first and last time while I was in the bathroom, I shouted at my companions: “We’re safe! Trust me... everything is going to be okay!”
Then Immaculée knew that the Lord would lead them to safety. At 2:00 the next morning the minister came and got them to show them the way to a French encampment near by.
As they were walking toward it, coming the other way were about 60 Interahamwe killers in a double line with their machetes, guns, etc. looking for the likes of them. They walked by them as if their eyes were holden and did not see them.
Later, as a french truck was carrying them from that encampment to a safer place, they heard gunfire, and the officer in charge stopped the truck and told them to get out as he could go no further, because he had orders to avoid fighting at any cost.
Getting out of the truck, they found themselves in the middle of several Interahamwe killers, who started to move toward them. Immaculée said:
I looked one Interahamwe straight in the eye and held his gaze. My heart told me that he was a person just like me, and that he really didn’t want to kill. I held my rosary and summoned all my will to send a message of love to him. I prayed that God would use me to touch the killer with the power of His love.
I didn’t blink... and we stared into each other’s eyes for what seemed like a lifetime. Finally, the killer broke my gaze and looked away. He turned his back to me and dropped his machete, as if the devil had left his body.
As the rest of Immaculée’s friends got out of the truck, the killers watched. Bravely, Immaculée said, “Let’s go. We’ll walk to the RPF camp – the soldiers are close by.”
When the killers heard her mention the RPF, they got nervous, and for the moment, left them alone. They walked until the wheel chair of one of the sweet mothers, Aloise, got stuck in some rocks and they could go no further.
At that point, Immaculée took two of her male friends, and told the rest to stay with Aloise while they went to get help and for them to pray.
Three Interahamwes followed us as we broke away from the larger group, and one of them recognized me. “I know this cockroach,” he said. “This is Leonard’s daughter – we’ve been looking for her for months! I can’t believe she’s still alive... we killed the rest of them, but his little cockroach gave us the slip!”
“Dear God,” I prayed, walking as fast as I could and holding my father’s rosary tightly in my hand. “Only you can save me. You promised to take care of me, God – well, I really need taking care of right now. There are devils and vultures at my back, Lord... please protect me. Take the evil from the hearts of these men, and blind their hatred with Your holy love.”
I walked without looking at my feet, not knowing if I was about to stumble over rocks or bodies, putting all my trust in God to guide me to safety. We were moving very briskly, but the killers were all around us now, circling us, slicing the air with their machetes. We were defenseless, so why were they waiting to strike?
“If they kill me, God, I ask You to forgive them. Their hearts have been corrupted by hatred, and they don’t know why they want to hurt me.”
After walking a half mile like that, I heard jean Paul say, “Hey, they’re gone... they’re gone!”
I looked around, and it was true – the killers had left us... I never stopped thanking God for saving us on that road!
After reaching the soldiers, through another miraculous intervention, Immaculée was able to get some soldiers to go back quickly to get the others left behind. As Immaculée was praying hard for their safety, she soon heard her merry friend’s familiar laughter coming from and approaching RPF truck.